Wednesday, May 23, 2012


Feelings of inadequacy, that's what I'm full of.  Inadequate to convey all of the feelings, the emotions, the love I felt this past weekend.  My family drove down to Haleyville, AL to participate in the Mark A Forester, Price of Freedom Race.  I was able to walk the 31 mile ruck in honor of Mark's 31st birthday on May 15th.  I was one of the hardest, yet most rewarding experiences of my life. We met up with Chris and Caroline Sprayberry, some friends from Tuscaloosa, and after a late dinner, and (trying to sleep with Isabel waking up at 4 am telling me she was ready for her pancake breakfast.... ) I met up with Chris and his brother Chad to drive over to the High School.  We registered and met up with Thad, it was so great to see him, and waited the last few minutes for the walk to begin at 6am.  The first stop was at Mark's grave.  His commander Lt Col. Parkes Hughes said a few inspiring words and led us in memorial pushups.  I was right next to Thad for them and I about lost it.  I miss Mark, I cherish the times I spent with the boys in Tuscaloosa my last two years there.  I still feel full of un-shed tears, unshared grief for his loss.  I am so proud of him, so honored to have known him and I am better for it. 
Welcome sign as we drove in on Friday night.

One hero honoring another.

There are 12 of these sign, I wanted to cry every time I saw one.

Mark's best friend, Rob, and his father Tony.  Rob went back after her finished the walk and walked the last 2 miles with his dad.

Oh a happy funny note.. The three of us (Chris, Chad and myself) were in the front of the group for the first 2 sections (Chris stayed up longer) and we were busting out sub 15 min miles... it was CRAZY fast especially when you take in to account the hills.  If you have never been. North Alabama is much hillier then you would initially think.  By the time we hit mile 16 ish.. my feet hurt.  But after awhile I realized they would hurt whether I walked or ran so I (along with most all the 65+ walkers) ran down the hills. 
I would come to realize later that maybe that wasn't' the best idea I have ever had.  The bruising and swelling was fantastic in me feet. 
Chris and Chad, my walking buddies (we were missing Aubrey in this picture)
This sign made me laugh.  I will always remember Mark saying "Giddy Up"

The fourth leg of the ruck, I had a second wind, probably because I knew my kids and husband were going to be there waiting for me.  It was so fun to see family and get re-energized for the last leg.  I ran into a lot of wonderful people I knew from way back when and I finally had a chance to meet Thad and Mark's parents.  Such special people they are.  I was introduced to Pat Forester by her friend who also taught Thad in primary and Mark in seminary.  We walked the last 2 miles or so of the fourth leg.  It was wonderful to visit with her.
We had an extra walker try and come with us.  I love the face of the girl next to me.

Thad getting the baton, with Mark's name and dates of the walks, from his dad.

Walking up to the Forester home at the last stop
My littlest supporter at stop 4.
Isabel (and John Even, one of my walking buddies' child) cheering on everyone who reached stop 4.

To finish this ruck was awesome.  I had some great comic relief with my walking buddies, especially the last mile or so, we were getting slap happy, Aubrey was also with us most of the way but he thought we were crazy to run as often as we did. :)  Once I heard we were ending the ruck with one lap around the track my goal was to run that lap, and I did.  As soon as I entered the track I heard Isabel yelling "Good Job Mom! Run faster! Run as fast as you can!"  I really wanted to yell back, 'what do you think I'm doing'.
When I look at all of the pictures from that day (go here) I am overcome with gratitude not only for Mark, but for his family, the volunteers and for all of the military men there.  I was able to talk with a few, I did have a hard time striking up some conversations ( I know hard to believe) but talking with Rob Bonnello was awesome.  Rob was Mark's best friend who was charged, by Mark to take care of his body and return it home, among other great experiences they shared.  Rob is a wonderful man.

I sit here reading over this still unsure how to adequately express all I want to.  My heart still aches for the loss the Forester's must endure, for the friend that I lost touch with, for the sacrifice he so willingly gave.

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